From the start of the season, the Denison Yellow Jackets have been playing from behind. If they are going to make a move and snag a playoff spot, it will come from the same position.
But before it can enter that postseason fight, Denison needs to get in the win column against a district opponent. There would be no better time for the Jackets as Denison (5-17, 0-4) hosts Sherman (15-6, 2-1) in District 5-5A action tonight at 7:30 p.m.
“We’re still looking for that first win. They’ve got their heads up. Had some good energy in the gym,” Denison head coach Chet Byerly said. “It’s just got to be more consistent. We have some stretches where we do some good things and then bam, bam, bam.”
With their rivals traveling to their house, the Jackets need a victory in the worst way. Every other district team has at least one win and the first half of the 5-5A schedule ends next week. The team has also lost seven of eight games and despite the up-and-down nature of a lineup affected by injuries, the Jackets are trying to be positive about where they stand entering what could be a fast-pace game.
“Shooting is going to be big both ways. Both teams will take a fair amount of threes,” Byerly said. “We’ve got some guys that can get hot. Hopefully they will. We’ve got to be fundamentally sound more than we have.”
Entering the match-up, Denison is coming off a 73-44 loss against Denton Ryan. Mykel Anderson scored 11 points, Christian Ruebeck added 10 points and Rustin Workman and Pierce Barker each finished with eight points apiece.
“I wasn’t disappointed with the way we played. We did some good things out there,” Byerly said. “I’ve never had to deal with the constant changes and injuries. It’s been a difficult year with all that.”
Workman was the latest of several Jackets to make his varsity debut this season as senior starters Noah Burden and Brakeilon Powell, as well as H.D. Speed, sat due to injuries.
Burden is expected to return tonight but Powell, who had provided the team’s main post presence before his injury, remains sidelined.
“He was playing well before he went down,” Byerly said. “He’s a bigger body to stick down there.”
Sherman is firmly in the thick of what could be a down-to-the-wire chase for a playoff spot. Many of the returning Bearcats were the core of a sixth-place finish in what was then 10-5A but six games from reaching the postseason. Sherman has already equaled its overall win total from a year ago.
“In a rivalry game you can throw out the records. We’re just trying to get as many wins as possible,” said first-year Sherman head coach Marcus Klingsick. “Next week is definitely a big week. They all are big.”
The Bearcats earned a 75-53 victory over Wichita Falls on Tuesday and sit in a tie with Wichita Falls Rider, their opponent on Tuesday, for third place — just a game behind undefeated Denton Ryan and Denton, which is Sherman’s opponent on next Friday to close out the first half.
The balanced attack was paced by Rayvon Hester, providing a spark off the bench and Daishawn Nelson, who each scored 14 points. Jaylyn Cleamons added 13 points, Jeremy Norvell finished with 12 points and Kemonte Dowdy chipped in 10 points.
It was the latest in more than a handful of games where at least five Bearcats scored in double figures.
“They’re all capable. It’s kinda who’s got the hot hand. The other guys know that and get it to him,” Klingsick said. “These guys are really good offensively. We’ve played pretty good except for one bad quarter against Ryan.”
With a lack of size, the Bearcats have pushed the tempo to take advantage of several scorers who can be the lead man on night. It has made Sherman hard to game-plan for but it also means the Bearcats need to make their shots to fend off opponents.
“We try to get the speed of the game how we want it,” Klingsick said. “When we’re on it’s pretty tough to beat. I think these guys can score against anybody but we’ve also got to be able to defend. We’re hoping to keep building on that.”